hostages ‘safe and well’
Eight Ethiopians kidnapped earlier this month in eastern Ethiopia are safe,
the leader of a separatist group operating in the Afar region has said.
The Ethiopians were seized with five Europeans who were freed last week.
The head of the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front told AFP news agency
they were being treated well.
Musa Ibrahim Hamaddu said his group was reassessing how to release them after
the Ethiopian government described his group as terrorists.
The Afar region – one of the hottest, most remote places on earth – straddles
the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Eritrea has denied Ethiopian claims that they were behind the kidnapping.
« No-one has died, they are safe. They are our people – we are Ethiopians,
they are Ethiopians, » Mr Hamaddu said.
He warned that future visitors to Afar risked kidnap if they entered without
rebel permission, AFP reports.
The kidnapped tourists, all linked to the British embassy in Ethiopia, were
released to the authorities of neighbouring Eritrea last Tuesday.
Relations between the two neighbours have been strained since Eritrea gained
independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war.
In a report on Eritrean television over the weekend, an ARDUF spokesman said
the hostages were taken to prove to Ethiopia that the rebel group still existed
– contrary to reports that it had been wiped out.
ARDUF, founded in 1993, seeks the creation of an independent Afar homeland,
which would include areas of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.